Pembroke – The 2022 Ontario Winter Games are proceeding, despite some concerns by the organizing committee about transportation, venues and access to medical teams.
“We are confident we can put forward a good Games,” Renfrew Reeve Peter Emon, the chair of the games, told Renfrew County council last Wednesday, just prior to asking for a motion in support of the games. “We have a very dedicated and hard-working group of volunteers. We are committed to moving forward with the games.”
County council passed a motion in support of the games allowing for the signing of agreements and contracts last Wednesday and despite the fact it was a split decision on endorsing it, based on the weighted voting system at the county, it was passed.
Six members of council voted against the motion – Horton Mayor David Bennett, Greater Madawaska Mayor Brian Hunt, Arnprior County Councillor Dan Lynch, Bonnechere Valley Mayor Jennifer Murphy, Warden Debbie Robinson and Killaloe, Hagarty and Richards Mayor Janice Tiedje. Ten members of council – North Algona Wilberforce Mayor James Brose, Admaston/Bromley Mayor Michael Donohue, Reeve Emon, Head, Clara and Maria Mayor Debbi Grills, Brudenell, Lyndoch and Ragland Mayor Sheldon Keller, Madawaska Valley Mayor Kim Love, McNab/Braeside Mayor Tom Peckett, Laurentian Hills Mayor Jed Reinwald and Petawawa Mayor Bob Sweet -- voted in favour of the motion. With the weighted vote, on a recorded vote called for by Mayor Tiedje, the motion passed 116 votes to 75.
The motion “reassured the province of Ontario and the community of its intention to proceed with the hosting of the Ontario 2022 Winter Games” and continued to authorize the County of Renfrew to enter into a contract and agreements to proceed with the games consistent with funding designated for the games. The motion was introduced by Reeve Emon and seconded by Mayor Sweet, who chairs the Development and Property Committee.
There was little discussion about the motion, which was held after a long-closed session at council. Mayor Donohue pointed out it has been a lot of work for the committee to get this far.
“I know this has been an extraordinary undertaking amidst the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.
Having the endorsement of the county was important because of the challenges which the committee has faced, he said.
“I have full confidence in their ability to move forward,” he said.
Conditions can change between now and February 2022, he admitted.
Reeve Emon said he was bringing the issue back to council as promised and said although there were some concerns, his committee was confident the games would be successful.
“Our community knows and council knows in December 2020 we learned we have been awarded the 2022 Ontario Winter Games and we set about to plan those,” he said.
The games are scheduled for February 24-27 and March 3-6.
“We will be utilizing a number of venues across Renfrew County and into the City of Ottawa,” he said.
As well, every hotel room in the area will be used, he said.
“We have some issues moving forward which are a concern to us,” he admitted.
Transportation is an issue with some of the previous commitments for transportation now backing out, he said.
“Our transportation system, we are stitching it together as I speak,” he said. “We have had a couple of setbacks.”
Companies can’t supply the drivers and can’t supply the transportation now, he said.
“Some of the lingering effects of COVID whether it be competition for drivers or parts for vehicles,” he said.
As a result, the committee has gone to other options for transportation outside the county.
“Of concern as well is our medical teams,” he said. “Every venue has to have a medical team on site.”
There is not only the need of first aid to participants and spectators but the additional layer of COVID issues like testing, isolation and treatment, he said.
“Venues remain a concern for us,” he added.
The plan is to utilize Garrison Petawawa and area schools.
“There are not that many options for venues and you couple that with a shortage of transportation,” he said.
In terms of accommodation, the Games committee has received 150 cots from Orillia – where the last Games were held – and those will be used for bunking if that is allowed.
Following the passing of the motion to proceed with the Games, Warden Robinson expressed her support.
“Congratulations County of Renfrew,” she said. “We are going to be hosting the 2022 Ontario Winter Games.
“Going forward you have the entire support of the County of Renfrew,” she added.
Debbi Christinck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader